Tussac Restoration With Falklands Conservation

Tussac_EBFTussac grass (Poa flabellata) is one of the most valuable native plants to farmers and wildlife in the Falkland Islands. It is palatable all year round and can provide good supplementary forage for cattle, horses and sheep.   Of the 65 bird species breeding in the Falkland Islands, 46 feed or nest in tussac. Seals shelter and breed in tussac grass, while it also provides a home for many invertebrates. For these reasons, farmers and conservationists alike share an interest in the establishment, management and long-term protection of tussac grass.

Tussac restoration projects are beneficial to the islands and especially on the mainland, where due to historical land use practices, tussac has been severely depleted. Mainland tussac is listed as a threatened habitat and identified as a priority for protection in the FIG Biodiversity Strategy 2008 – 2018.

Tussac_PlantingEBFCase Study: Elephant Beach Farm tussac project 2005 – 2010. Ben Berntsen at Elephant Beach Farm started a replanting programme in 2005. With support from Falklands Conservation's Small Grant Scheme an area on the north coast known as Black Point was fenced off for restoration. Historical overgrazing had depleted the tussac stand and left large areas of bare peat. Ben was keen to get tussac back on the land with a long-term goal of using the area for winter livestock grazing.

The first planting took place in September 2005; tillers were collected from Cape Dolphin and planted by Falklands Conservation volunteers. The success of the project far exceeded expectations with tillers (young tussac plants) trebling in size within the first year. Five years on there are large areas of tussac which are now expanding beyond the initial areas.

Falklands Conservation now hosts an annual tussac planting weekend at Elephant Beach. Ben plans to fence off more areas of his farm in order to extend the tussac plantation further. This winter, just 5 years after the first planting, Ben was able to open the area for winter grazing by cattle for the first time.

 Tussac_Yr3EBFTussac planting schemes have certainly become popular in recent years, bringing together keen volunteers, families and landowners making planting days a sociable occasion. Winter is the best time to plant as the ground is wetter, allowing tillers to establish roots and survive through the drier summer.

Tussac restoration areas can also be seen around Stanley, including FC's junior Watch Group's tussac project by Gilbert House on the harbour front. More recently tussac has been planted up on the cleared mine field site west of Surf Bay.

It is envisaged that tussac will play an important role in habitat restoration of cleared minefields in coastal areas that might otherwise be susceptible to erosion. The current trials led by Falklands Conservation at Surf Bay will facilitate development of best practise guidelines for restoration work following future demining programmes in the Falklands. In five years time, community members and tourists alike will be able to enjoy flourishing mainland tussac habitat and its associated wildlife just a stone's throw from Stanley.